Marimba Grande

Marimba Grande

Donated by University of Miami, Florida

The marimba grande is the larger of the two instruments that make up the marimba doble (double marimba). Seven people are needed to play the two instruments, which are divided respectively into four and three parts or ranges. The four marimba grande players are the piccolo and tiple (who play the melody in octaves), the centro (who plays the harmony with three mallets), and the bajo (who plays the bass, also with three mallets).

This instrument was purchased in Honduras in 1957 and reflects the construction style representative of Guatemalan instruments. It is hand crafted entirely of various woods, although some metal reinforcement braces have been added to the frame.

Decorating the frame are elaborate carvings reflecting Guatemalan art and the Mayan heritage of Central America. The resonators, called cajones, are made by gluing thin strips of wood together to form a rectangular chamber, pointed at the end. Near the base of each resonator is a small hole, which is covered by a membrane made of pig’s intestine. When the bar is struck, this membrane produces the characteristic buzzing sound of the marimba grande, known as charleo.

This instrument has a range of six octaves, from F-sharp to B-natural. The lowest bar is 15 x 3 inches, and the highest is 5 x 3/4 inches. The instrument is 8 feet, 3 inches long and 3 feet, 9 inches wide at the lowest end.